In a story that has been tweeted more than 2,000 times in only a few days, a U.S. District Court judge ruled a blogger has to pay a hefty $2.5 million to an investment firm because she isn’t a “real journalist” in the eyes of the law.
Crystal Cox is the writer and owner of several blogs, some of which were critical of the Obsidian Finance Group. Obsidian claimed defamation and sued for $10-million. In the end, it was awarded $2.5 million. Cox claimed she had insider sources, and one blog post out of the many was what forced the judge’s decision.
Cox’s refusal to name her source and the fact she isn’t protected under Oregon’s media shield law made this a harsh ruling for the blogosphere, which is why it’s attracting so much attention.
The divide between bloggers and journalists appeared to have narrowed but in the past year or so it has also widened. Legal rulings of this nature could become the norm if bloggers don’t adjust and adapt, and ultimately learn that organizations will come after you if they feel you are unjustly writing about them.
There is another lesson in here: No one blogs in a vacuum. Sometimes bloggers feel they are publishing in cyberspace and that no one important is paying attention. Bloggers need to take a page from a journalist’s handbook by having the same level of integrity and accountability.
Every U.S. state treats bloggers differently. Some states have revised their media shield laws to protect bloggers and online publishers. Until there is uniformity, it is upon the individual blogger to protect themselves and blog honestly.
As Crystal Cox learned, there is more than your credibility at stake.